Justin Herbert took a massive blow to the head, which led to some controversy that may linger after Sunday.
While running the two-minute drill and hoping to extend their 13-10 lead, the Chargers quarterback led Los Angeles down the field. Herbert scrambled out of the pocket, and while he was being tackled by linebacker Fred Warner, the QB was hit low by safety Jimmie Ward and then high to the helmet by linebacker Dre Greenlaw. The San Francisco 49ers defender was penalized for the helmet-to-helmet hit and was disqualified from the game after the play was reviewed.
You can view the play here, as shared by PFF’s Ari Meirov.
There are a lot of factors in this play, but first, the ejection. Many fans and pundits disagreed with the decision. NBC Sports color commentator Cris Collinsworth and rules analyst Terry McAulay believed the disqualification was excessive but understood the NFL is concerned about player safety, especially for quarterbacks.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC during halftime, “I understand the penalty but not the ejection,” per the broadcast. Former New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen also agreed with that sentiment.
It also can be argued the initial hit by Ward dropped Herbert and made Greenlaw’s hit higher than what he had intended, which is important when considering disqualification, but the NFL appeared to have thought differently.
The handling of Tua Tagovailoa by the Miami Dolphins was under scrutiny and forced the NFL to reevaluate its concussion protocol. Its that recent history which has some questioning how Herbert was able to pass his concussion evaluation and return to the game.
Chase Daniel took over for three plays before Cameron Dicker’s field goal to put Los Angeles up, 16-10. During those plays, Herbert was given his helmet back and was standing on the sideline. After halftime, the third-year QB started the second half, which seemed like a quick clear of the concussion protocol.
Herbert appeared fine on the drive, but that ignores the nature of concussions — the effects are more long-term and are not noticeable in an instant, which is why Tagovailoa’s situation was so alarming.
As of the middle of the third quarter, the NFL has not made an official comment on the ejection or the handling of Herbert’s clearing of the concussion protocol.